International Ice Hockey Federation

U.S. tops Canada at WJSS

U.S. tops Canada at WJSS

Finland fails to register a win

Published 06.08.2017 05:36 GMT-4 | Author Dhiren Mahiban
U.S. tops Canada at WJSS
Team USA’s Joey Anderson (left) scored a hat trick against Canada (right: Jake Bean). Photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Just as they did at the 2017 World Juniors, the U.S. concluded this week’s World Junior Summer Showcase with a victory over Canada defeating the neighbours 7-5.

In January the Americans used a shootout to edge the Canadians 5-4 and win their third gold medal in eight years.

Sweden needed overtime to edge Finland 6-5 in the early game and finish in third place. Chicago Blackhawks prospect Tim Soderlund put a bullet past Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for the winner.

All four nations now have five months to form a roster for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, which takes place in Buffalo Dec. 26, 2017 - Jan. 5, 2018.

Canada, who will be looking to take home just a second gold medal in nine years, felt the summer showcase was a good opportunity to learn about the players in the mix.

“I thought it was a good week, there were many things that we wanted to do, to achieve and I think we did that this week,” said Canadian coach Dominique Ducharme. “We’re preparing for Christmas time now.

“The way we want to play, the mindset we want to be playing with, getting to know the players, them to know us and so on.”

For U.S. coach Bob Motzko, the summer showcase provided an opportunity for his coaching staff to focus on smaller aspects of putting the team together.

“It starts off with putting pieces together and then we (figure out) well who is going to be the penalty killers, who can play 4-on-4, who are going to be our face-off guys – you get really comfortable with who can handle the really little parts of your game,” said Motzko.

“Behind the scenes, we look at the little minutes: last minute of the game, if we have an injury, do we have another centre – those are things we’re evaluating and we’re comfortable.”

The Americans head to Buffalo looking to win back-to-back gold medals for the first time at the Under-20 level, they’ve also never won gold on home soil. Given the circumstances, players know there’ll be added pressure this year.

“There is a little bit (of pressure),” admitted defenceman J.D. Greenway. “Last year taking gold in Canada was great, but now that the tournament is here in the States, we’re going to have to dig a little deeper and be sure to get it again on our home soil.”

A year after winning gold on home soil at the 2016 World Juniors, Finland surprised many in 2017 by winning just once in the preliminary round and falling to the relegation round.

Despite not winning a game at the World Junior Summer Showcase, the Fins are confident about their chances in Buffalo.

“I think last year we had a good team, but we just didn’t get the results,” said Edmonton Oilers prospect Aapeli Rasanen. “The year before Finland won gold so I think Finland has established their place in the top four, top five, top six teams.

“Our only goal can be gold medal. We have such a good team that we can achieve that goal. We’re going to chase after a gold medal in Buffalo.”

On top of needing to defeat Latvia in the relegation round to remain in the top group, Finland also fired its coaching staff mid-tournament last year. Sami Salo, an assistant coach on the current coaching staff, doesn’t feel there’s added pressure on the 2018 team after how poorly things went in 2017.

“There’s always pressure, but there’s no pressure from last year’s tournament,” said Salo. “It’s a new coaching staff, new group and we just try to implement our style how we want to play and try to build on that to get a team ready for the tournament in December.”

Finland has won gold twice in the past four tournaments, but prior to that had just one bronze medal (2006) in the previous eight U-20 events.

Rasanen believes the chemistry formed while winning gold at the Under-18 tournament will help the Finns at the U20 event in December.

“We won Under-18 gold, there’s a lot guys from that team (here),” he said. “Last year was a different kind of experience. We now know what it takes to be a good team in this level and what it takes to compete for the medal. I think it might be good for this team, we have a couple returning from last year so they can lead the team with experience.”

Sweden will head to Buffalo in search of their first medal of any kind since winning a silver medal on home ice in Malmo at the 2014 tournament. The Swedes fell 2-1 to Russia in the Bronze medal game at the 2017 tournament in Montreal and Toronto.

After winning gold at the 2012 event in Calgary, Sweden has just two silver medals in five Under-20 tournaments.

Tomas Monten’s squad will head to the 2018 tournament looking to improve on two areas they focused on at the summer showcase: their success in the face-off circle and their play on the smaller ice.

“I think we still have a big issue with playing on the smaller rink, I think especially with the game (on Friday against Canada), we still give up too many turnovers,” said Monten. “The feeling is we want to overplay situations. The rink is a lot smaller and the game moves a lot faster so you’ve got to be more careful with the puck.”

The Swedes also dedicated extra time during practice, and used video, to improve their fate in the face-off circle. The issue has been the way players are forced to line up, according to Monten.

“It got a little bit better, it wasn’t great, but it was a lot better than the game before,” Monten said of the game against Canada on Friday. “It’s more about how the players line up, that’s our biggest issue: how you can line up here compared to at home. It’s progress.”

The summer showcase also provided Monten’s staff an opportunity to experiment with line combinations both amongst the forward group and their defencemen. Though they got an idea of how things could work in December, Monten admitted there’s a lot that can change in five months.

“We have a feeling of it, we have a hunch of it, but still we said coming into this, we really want to try different combinations,” he said. “Even if we find a pairing, we don’t want to stick with it now to win games, we want to really try (different combinations). I know (Jesper) Bratt and (Fredrik) Karlstrom played together last year and they have a lot of chemistry off the ice. Lias Andersson and Elias Pettersson played together in the World Juniors last year and we know those two guys can work together.

“We have a hunch (of combinations), but we don’t know who is going to be there in December. You can have players injured, you can have players in the NHL, you can have players that have a downswing.”

Scores:
Canada vs. Finland 6-5 OT
USA vs. Sweden 3-2
Sweden vs. Canada 4-7
Finland vs. USA 3-4
Sweden vs. Finland 6-5 OT
USA vs. Canada 7-5

Final Standings: 1. USA 9, 2. Canada 5, 3. Sweden 5, 4. Finland 2.

 

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